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Also, I'm aware many of these are embellished, but how good would these films be be without some creative license? Enjoy:)
They are in mostly random order with the ones I make a point to watch again nearer the top. I'll occasionally rotate a top favorite at the beginning. Enjoy:)
These are in reverse order by year. I'll usually keep a top favorite at the beginning of list.
PS Sunrise (1927) is the oldest movie and only silent film that I love. I tacked it onto the end of this list because I didn't want to make a list with only one silent film;)
Down to the Sea in Ships (1949)
Two full hours of exciting sailing!
There's no one who plays the salty old sea captain quite like Lionel Barrymore. And few child stars had the love of the camera and the audience like Dean Stockwell (who's still acting even now, well into his 70's). I've never been a huge Richard Whidmark fan, but I've never made a point to become one. Now I see what all the fuss was about as he embarked on his early leading man career as the (top-billed) first mate and book-learned master seaman of a whale boat out of New Bedford, MA in the late 1800's.
The three main characters are on a consistent wave of hooking each other where it hurts when ultimately it's their pride and inability to get along as the order of a ship must prevail over the lives of the men. These are hard lessons for a boy who is in the school of whaling, book-learning, and life while on board. Ultimately, he learns all of his lessons and then some in this bittersweet story that will make you watch and root for the whole crew. We see a bit about whaling, but this is really about a boy becoming a man and the men who help him. The supporting cast couldn't be better as many of the greatest character actors help pull this ship successfully out to sea.
Is this as good as Captain's Courgeous? Well, it's not really fair to compare. If you don't expect Captain's Courageous, you'll hopefully not be disappointed. If you expect a fine character driven story while set on the sea in ships, then you'll hopefully enjoy two full hours of exciting sailing.
Sunrise at Campobello (1960)
Bellamy and Garson make a truly convincing team.
I'm a fan of biographies, but most I never want to watch again even if they were pretty good. SUNRISE AT CAMPOBELLO is an exception to my usual rule. This is such a complex and emotional film that it's worth seeing at least once.
Ralph Bellamy repeats his successful stage role and does so with great aplomb. But the real bravo goes to Greer Garson. She's barely recognizable as Eleanor Roosevelt. I'm sure she gave Meryl Streep a lesson or two in becoming a real life character vs. portraying one. Both are fine actresses, but I'd say Garson accomplishes this goal even more so than Streep in THE IRON LADY. However, there's no need to have a competition. My point is that the great actresses of today clearly were influenced by the great ones of yesteryear. Garson, though nominated, didn't win the Oscar. Elizabeth Taylor did for BUTTERFIELD 8. This film is an example of an actress who might have won in a less political year. But the Oscars aren't the litmus test for all films.
Garson's Eleanor Roosevelt champions Bellamy's FDR, overcomes his and her own adversities, raises a large family to boot, and is still one of the most famous women in history. Garson has no trouble whatsoever in accomplishing this great feat of portraying so adeptly this powerhouse of a woman. If you like American history (tweaked of course to pass the Hays code), biographies, or Bellamy, or especially Garson, then watch this engrossing film and be transported to another era where even the rich, famous, and powerful people have problems, yet they lead by example and overcome the necessary obstacles together that cover the steps (literally) which eventually lead to their place in political history.
The Strawberry Blonde (1941)
A surprising little gem
The first time I saw this film, I was so undone by the underhandedness and unfairness, that I swore it off for future viewings. Then it rolled around on TCM's schedule again, and I had forgotten most of the plot. On this viewing, I paid closer attention to every little detail, and I totally changed my mind about this surprising little film. It had little elements of hilarity that I had forgotten or totally missed the first time. Cagney is quite like that in his comedic roles, I've noticed, and De Hvilland is, too.
After getting to know James Cagney and Jack Carson a bit better through numerous other films, I began to have a newfound attachment to this film. One main reason is that it just makes better sense when you pay close attention. Once that all happens, you see De Havilland is quite charming and her understated attractiveness totally envelops the cheap tramp ways of the usual bombshell, Rita Hayworth.
The only thing that bothers me is the eight years it takes Biff (Cagney) to exact his revenge. Eight years is a long time, but it's a movie and it does fly by! And revenge is exacted. Just as romantic comedies go, there is a very happy ending. The best part is it is totally not formulaic and, therefore, a real surprise. De Havilland and Cagney have one of De Havilland's cutest scenes caught on film as the movie ends. It's a great ending and a surprising little gem made larger and greater by fantastic writing and a superior cast.
Dial M for Murder (1954)
I don't love it, but I'm still drawn to it.
DIAL M FOR MURDER is not my least favorite Hitchcock film, but it also isn't my favorite. However, it has grown on me with repeated viewings, so I'm updating an old review I had deleted which I originally wrote after my first viewing. It's definitely a film I still want to revisit. I appreciate the stylization and simplicity of the set. Since this was originally released in 3D, that explains why the less is more approach works. The plot is plausible. Grace's wardrobe is simple yet lovely, and Grace herself is as beautiful as always.
My issues were and still are with the casting and the acting...two pretty big issues. I don't believe for one minute that Grace Kelly's character would love, much less marry Ray Milland's. I also don't believe that she would become romantically involved with Robert Cummings. Fine actors on their own, they are not credible to me as love interests for such a young beauty. That element weakens the whole plot.
The acting leans toward the over-the-top melodrama of the Golden Age. This is quite unusual and unnecessary in a Hitchcock film. Grace is guilty of it herself. Her accent bothered me originally. She sounds a little British and a little bit of Hollywood vocal polish. Milland, who can be very charming, is almost too bland and his clipped speech drains away his emotion to such a point that it is hard to connect with his character at all and to see how Grace ever could have fallen in love with him. Robert Cummings is pure American Pie, which he really is, but he doesn't seem like someone who would attract Grace Kelly away from her debonair yet older husband. None of the characters seem full of enough emotion to be caught up in a love triangle much less a murder plot. I am plenty capable of suspending belief, but if this movie is going to be so highly ranked in the IMDb 250 out of all the movies in the world, then I find it quite surprising and tend to wonder if guys are so stuck on Grace (in clothes or even in a nightgown) or loyal to Hitchcock that the implausibility of the plot with all of its flaws with the main characters is accepted without question.
I have loved both of these main male stars as well as Kelly in other films. Sometimes I'll watch a film just to get to see these actors act. This one, even after repeated viewings, still bugs me, but I still find myself drawn to it regardless. I've finally realized that it plays like a play. it is simple and the supporting cast and mystery really drive the plot. That is a testament to Hitchcock's ability to pull together a film that doesn't compare in dramatic content to most of his other films, yet it still envelops and endures almost 60 ears later. I'd still say if you are stuck on a Hitchcock picture with Grace Kelly, then go for TO CATCH A THIEF or, even better, REAR WINDOW, but if you are determined to a less action-packed mystery, then DIAL M will draw you in every time.
Anna and the King of Siam (1946)
The best version of them all!
I watched this film because I'm such a fan of Irene Dunne, particularly in her light-hearted romantic and screwball comedies. There are some amusing situations, but this is ultimately a drama and certainly not a lavish musical. It still, to me, is the best version of them all.
This film hits hard right out of the gate with Anna and her son caught in a situation that neither quite expect. Rex Harrison plays the King surprisingly well despite not looking as exotic as Yul Brenner or as truly authentic as Yun-Fat Chow. Dunne's determination and caring for her son spur her on and make her brave and strong in an understated fashion as the film progresses. The main characters repartee is a delight to witness. Their chemistry is just right, and they do not have the luxury of lavish musical numbers to draw them together. One just knows they have a great respect for each other from very fine acting.
I will say that I found this version the most emotionally charged of the three motion pictures, yet it is not a Peyton Place melodrama. Maybe that's why I love it so. It's so well-made in every aspect that it really packs that emotional punch for me. I didn't even recognize the usually very recognizable Lee J. Cobb and somehow missed his name in the credits the first time.
I think this is about as fine an epic drama about forbidden romance and opposing cultures as I've seen. I give most of that credit to the wonderful performances of the leads and the incredibly adept script. It entertains, tugs at your heartstrings, and doesn't disappoint. I highly recommend it as the best version of them all:)
Julia Misbehaves (1948)
Watching Julia misbehave is a real treat:)
I adore this nutty little film. I love Garson, Pidgeon, Taylor, and Lawford in almost any movie and particularly teamed together. Cesar Romero also adds flavor in a comedic supporting role. I enjoy classic and screwball comedies and have a long list made of those (this one is on it). Is this the best of the best? No, but it's fun and well made. That's a prerequisite for my list. I own it and still watch it each time it comes on TCM.
Elizabeth Taylor, as the mutual daughter and young bride, is so young and lovely. She still has an innocence to her performance at this stage that I enjoy. Peter Lawford is young, suave, and cocky. Walter Pidgeon is typical Walter Pidgeon. But it's Greer Garson's movie and in it she shines. She produces screwball romantic comedy antics worthy of Irene Dunne or Jean Arthur.
This is a must see for Garson fans. I highly recommend it to fans of any of the cast or of the genre. It's not perfect, but it sure entertains. And isn't that the point?
Strange Lady in Town (1955)
Worth a watch
I originally watched this because I'm a fan of Greer Garson, Dana Andrews, period pieces, and westerns. These are still all great reasons to watch this film. I gained a few others, too, like the well-done portrayal of Spurs by Lois Smith, the rival doctors in a small town drama who are, of course, Garson and Andrews, and the lovely Technicolor where we get to see Garson in all her true, red-haloed glory.
This isn't an awful film. I might even watch it again someday. However, all of the positive elements failed to add up to equal the caliber of film both of these actors had made many times before. Also, Dana Andrews looked a bit too young for Garson as he often did with a costar who wasn't at least 5 years younger or more. He had a young face even for a man with a drinking problem. I adore both of these actors, but this might have been a good time to match Garson with Pidgeon one more time. You can hardly beat that teaming;) They could have added some humor and it might have turned out to be more than "worth a watch" for me. Also, I chalk it off to poor writing, Cameron Mitchell's usual overacting, and not much romantic tension between the leads (bad casting there as I really like each actor separately).
If you are a fan of these actors or westerns or bored and prefer classics to other films, then I recommend watching it purely on the fact that it is beautifully shot and Greer Garson, with her gentle demeanor and lovely beauty and voice, can make even a fairly bad picture better:)
Mr. Lucky (1943)
It's one of those movies that is so good, I wish I could see it again for the first time!
Cary Grant is my favorite actor. I've had a crush in him since seeing his movies on TV as a little girl. Most of my very favorite movies star the great Cary Grant and his plethora of beautiful leading ladies. So with an almost 40 year crush on Cary Grant and having seen almost all of his films, imagine my surprise when I discovered a new Cary Grant film which jumped near the top of the list of my favorite Grant movies of all time on my first viewing!
MR. LUCKY is a delightfully complex film. It has crime, drama, war, con-artists, socialites putting on charity balls, gambling, drama, romance, comedy, knitting, cockney rhyming slang, and most of all, heart. It's a redemption story told against the backdrop of the home front efforts in World War II. The men have a plan and the women have a plan. You'll have to watch to see who prevails, but it is a romantic comedy after all, so the answer is pretty obvious.
What isn't so obvious is Mr. Cary Grant. If you think you know Grant from his numerous comedic and occasional tough guy roles, then you're in for a real treat as you experience this film for the first time. It's one of those movies that is so good, I wish I could see it again for the first time. Grant is spot-on perfect as the crooked gambler Joe. Laraine Day is unusually perfect as his leading lady. I wasn't sure how I'd like her paired with Grant, but they have marvelous chemistry and delightful repartee. Two of my favorite character actors are Charles Bickford and Gladys Cooper who shine in their supporting roles. But ultimately, Cary Grant, as he always does, steals the show. He can't help it. He's Cary Grant. However, he's not playing the perfectly suave ladies' man. He's a tough guy who learns through his crooked dealings with some kindhearted women that he has a heart, too.
As a drooling admirer, I'm not sure he ever looked as good as he does in this film (especially in his early years as an actor). He also let's a little bit of his Mid-Atlantic accent go and gives us a touch of his British side. It's endearing and unusual for Grant. If anyone ever thought Grant was underrated as an actor, then here is a case for it. You don't even realize you're watching Cary Grant, and that's hard for almost any fan to forget despite his wonderful acting and diverse roles. He's fully transported into the character and he brings us right along for a real surprise.
Where the Boys Are (1960)
Delightfully entertaining and you'll be singing the song for days!
WHERE THE BOYS ARE is delightfully entertaining and you'll be singing the song for days! I love the fact that it is really a Spring Break soap opera that doesn't take itself too seriously.
As with all soaps, a couple of threads are usually the highlights. These threads are played by our leads: Hart, Hamilton, Hutton, and Prentiss. Jim Hutton and Paula Prentiss always play off of each other so well, and here again they do not disappoint. They are the comedic story thread. Delores Hart and George Hamilton bring out the romantic drama aplenty. Of course, there are many other lovely girls and silly guys to round out the cast. It's the perfect cast for a Spring Break Beach movie.
This isn't necessarily an award winning worthy film, but if they gave awards for Popcorn and Powder Puff Pieces, then this would be in the top 10. It's fun to watch once a year as all the college kids are headed off on Spring Break. Yes, times have changed. Yes, this film is dated. And yes, it represents the end of an era before the studio system began to collapse and then anything goes from that point on, and that's not necessarily a good thing.
So relax, enjoy, and be prepared to be entertained two times over by the great Connie Francis who acts and sings the famous title song. Best of all, enjoy being transported to a week of fluff and fun!
Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973)
It was too gritty, but that was Peckinpah's point.
PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID - (1973) - TCM - Well, I must admit Sam Peckinpah can make one humdinger of a western. That said, this certainly isn't a favorite of mine, but it's worth a watch for serious western fans. It's infinitely more realistic than a John Ford western...to a fault. However, I much prefer to be in a semi-make-believe John Ford world versus this one mainly because I prefer the Hays Code westerns any day over this style. The unkempt and kept women with bare breasts displayed at any possible chance turned my stomach. It was all a bit too realistic.
Conversely, I was pleasantly surprised by the Bob Dylan soundtrack. I absolutely love the song "Knocking on Heaven's Door" and the bittersweet scene where it was playing was very profound. It's my favorite part of the movie...period. Also, I loved seeing a fresh-faced Kris Kristofferson who has such a great speaking voic and excelled in this role. James Coburn is even cooler than Kristofferson. Frankly, who is cooler than James Coburn in that era? In the final scene with Billy (Kristofferson), Coburn actually loses his cool. I saw his raw vulnerability wonderfully shot in the mirror...great acting and directing. This scene is very telling as to the relationship between Garrett and Billy and to Peckinpah's vision as a filmmaker.
Additionally, the cinematography was stunning. In one scene in particular, Billy rides along the shore of a lake. The pinks of the sky were reflected with the shadow of horse and rider on land and water. That was a beautiful and memorable shot and it's this attention to detail that makes it worth a watch.
This film has a diverse supporting cast and the same great story of the Old West tale told in a unique way. It was very gritty, but these guys were meant to play grit. I doubt I'll ever watch it again, but I do recommend it to anyone who appreciates the stark reality of the revisionist western told in Peckinpah's unique style. It's just not to my taste.